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Movie Critique – The Woman in Green

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Books, Movies or Radio shows, Sherlock always entertains us. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has created a character who is more living than any fictional character. And he doesn’t disappoint us in this one as well, with this trusted Watson on his side.

The Woman in Green is a 1945 American film based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. It stars Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson in the key roles. They are supported by Henry Daniell as Professor Moriarty and Matthew Boulton as Inspector Gregson. 

This was the eleventh of the fourteen movies filmed as part of Sherlock Holmes series between 1939 and 1946. The first was The Hound of Baskervilles in 1939 and ended with Dressed to Kill in 1946. The film takes plots from two of Doyle's stories - the 1893 The Final Problem and the 1903 The Adventure of the Empty House.

Young women are being murdered all over London and the bodies discovered have a missing finger. Holmes takes the case that leads Holmes and Watson to a hypnotist, the woman in green, as mentioned in the title. They realize that the hypnotist is working with Holmes nemesis Professor Moriarty.

Recently I have started listening to podcasts of some old time radio shows mainly focused on mystery and noir. One of the episodes they air are from the show The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, originally aired in USA from 1939 to 1950.

After listening to a few episodes with Rathbone and Bruce, I wanted to watch their movies as well. However, not all movies are available online. Luckily on TCM channel, a couple days ago, was airing this movie, The Woman in Green, as part of their Film Noir segment. And pronto! I grabbed the opportunity to watch it.

The films were concurrently done with the radio show with Rathbone and Bruce both reprising their roles in the radio show as well as the films. Up until these movies, Rathbone had a long career in theater and movies, mostly playing evil characters. His role as Holmes, made him the good guy on the screen. Yet he accepted his role with bitter-sweet love towards it. 

As long as the film series was going on, Rathbone had participated in the radio show as well. However, once the film series ended he gave up his role of Holmes to Tom Conway. Rathbone felt that he was being typecasted due to him playing Holmes a lot. He had once said "When you become the character you portray, it's the end of your career as an actor". Once the movies ended, he ended his contract so he could do other roles in theater than just being known as Holmes.

He did win a Tony for his performance as Best Actor in the Broadway show The Heiress, in 1948, based on Henry James short story The Washington Square. So perhaps he did win over the typecasting stigma. 

This film was directed by Roy William Neill, who had directed a total of 11 movies in the series. In this film though there is absence of Inspector Lestrade. Instead we get Inspector Gregson. Hillary Brooke who played the title role had commented that Rathbone has a silly side which she says is portrayed in one of the scenes in a bar where she and Rathbone get drunker and drunker while playing their respective roles in the film.

The film is narrated by the character Inspector Gregson in the background. He is the one you see in the center in the picture below, portrayed by Matthew Boulton.

And here we have Moriarty himself portrayed by Henry Daniell.

Well-made, even if Rathbone felt typecasted. However he did set a certain bar for anyone who would come later play Sherlock Holmes, be it on stage, radio or in movies. Rathbone certainly is the best of all them, until I saw Benedict Cumberbatch play the role in the British crime television series, Sherlock, based on Doyle's characters and stories.

Books, Movies or Radio shows, Sherlock always entertains us. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has created a character who is more living than any fictional character. I would love to watch the remaining 13 movies in the series, if I find them. Watch out for this spot for more reviews.


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